Public Opinions of Early Childhood

Public opinion regarding early education programming has evolved significantly over the years as the national conversation regarding early education has become more prevalent under the Obama administration. Obviously, I think that these programs are important and necessary or I wouldn’t have dedicated my career to early childhood education. However, I do think that we need to be careful when it comes to encouraging the federal government to get involved. Unfortunately, sometimes the government causes more problems than solutions and it is up to education advocates to make sure that funds are distributed in a manner that offers community maximum ability to serve children and families well.

I absolutely do believe that, if the Universal Preschool conversation continues to play out on the national stage, there will be a heated debate that will likely have an anti-federalist bend to it in some discussions. The reason I believe this is from personal experience. I have spent a lot of time at the Colorado State Legislature lobbying for and against all sorts of different bills that impact early childhood programs or Montessori schools and I have witnessed a lot of elected officials express a variety of opinions on early childhood education and/or the federal government. Generally speaking the more conservative members of the legislature have been openly opposed to ECE funding for a variety of reasons. However, I also think that we may be surprised at some conservative leaders’ opinions on the subject as they weigh this topic with other values.

For example, I was lobbying on behalf of an early childhood funding bill at the legislature and two of the most conservative members of the committee had broadly differing opinions on the subject. First Senator Kevin Lundberg (R, Larimer County) spoke about how early childhood funding bills were simply a ploy for the government to try to take over child rearing from parents and it was a threat to the traditional family (CGA, 2014). He was firmly against it. Then Representative Jim Wilson (R, Salida) spoke up and said that he supported the bill. The reason he gave was that he was pro-life and he felt that if we were going to expect every young woman who gets pregnant to have her baby then we are going to have to rally around her and offer her the support she needs in order to help them be successful so that her child can have a better chance of being financially independent and no longer needing government support (CGA, 2014). He was looking at it as a potential one generation investment that would lead to long-term stability. It was a very interesting perspective to hear!

As we discuss federal and state support of early childhood programming, advocates should be careful to consider that it is important that the existing infrastructure of private and nonprofit early childhood programs are able to benefit from the funding and aren’t left to compete with a free program up the street that opened in the public school. It would be a waste of taxpayer money to shut down existing programs by building new programs in the same area. Instead, states can consider giving funding directly to the parents and allowing them to choose from a menu of existing programs, if such a menu exists. In many rural communities, there is no existing infrastructure. These are the places in which it would be appropriate for the government to build early childhood programming into public schools.

I think that most Americans can support funding high-quality, low-cost early education programming. However, it must be optional and it must be implemented in a way that is respectful to the existing business and educational infrastructure that is currently in place within each community. I also think that public opinion will support this type of programming much more if it is designed to serve not only low-income families, but middle class families as well. In this way we can support all of our working parents and give all children a great opportunity at a strong start in life.

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~ by vegucationmama on November 9, 2014.

2 Responses to “Public Opinions of Early Childhood”

  1. The government involvement is sometimes a hassle, but because of the profession and its supporters you cannot get away from government involvement. People running on platforms that in are based on what they can do for children, can’t help but intrigue a community person who cares for children. The issues that is not happening is that our elected officials have promises that they have made and we voted for them because we expected them to fulfill these actions. We have to hold them accountable. The government involvement in the field give a set of standards and rules that we the professionals must follow, so we need to do the same for the government.

  2. You make a good point about the reciprocal relationship between the citizenry and the government. We must all hold one another accountable!

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